Positron Emission Tomography and Computed Tomography (PET-CT) is a high standard of cancer imaging that combines two powerful technologies to provide advanced details about the presence of cancer in a patient and the cancer’s location in the body. The doctor orders a PET-CT scan when you display unusual symptoms after a physical exam or when they notice something unusual during an X-ray or MRI scan to look for the presence of a tumor.
- A combined PET-CT scan provides detailed information about a tumor compared to using a PET or CT scan alone. The PET-CT scan provides both the anatomy and metabolism of lesions in the body and improves the accuracy of diagnosis, therefore, reducing the number of scans the patient needs.
- The CT part uses multiple X-ray images to provide clear, detailed images. It shows anatomic images of tumors while the PET helps in detecting the presence of positrons which are microscopic particles with positive electrical charge. Since cancer cells are growing and multiplying fast, they tend to be more active and take in more sugar while emitting more positrons and gamma rays. On a PET-CT scan, they glow brighter than normal cells, making it easy to detect their presence and activity, and even easier to target treatment directly at their location. PET-CT effectively detects cancers such as breast cancer, lung cancer and lymphoma, among others.
- Cancer eats up live cells in the body and grows. PET-CT monitors its activity both at diagnosis, during treatment and even after treatment to see if the patient is beating the disease. The amount of information the doctors get from using PET-CT scans outweighs risks that the PET-CT scans pose when applying radiation doses to the body.
- A PET-CT scan takes about 20-30 minutes, meaning that both the doctors and patients will receive results faster and commence treatment right away. This helps to increase life expectancy because patients with lower stage cancers that have not metastasized can undergo surgery or radiation therapy to destroy the cancer. PET-CT stages cancer and allows doctors to create a whole body treatment plan for patients with a more advanced form of cancer.
Follow-up PET-CT scans help doctors to monitor treatment responses and take the next course of action. If the treatment is not working, oncologists will introduce another treatment that is more effective. The latest advances in the PET-CT technology allows for effective diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of cancer.